After being diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 33, Nottingham-local Andy Wright never thought he would be able to play tennis again. Six-years after his diagnosis, the LTA has released a short film documenting how Andy rediscovered his love for the sport and the physical benefits he’s experienced since getting back on court.
Following a car accident in his early 30s, which left him with whiplash injuries, doctors noticed that there something was holding back Andy’s recovery. It was after subsequent treatments and a brain scan, that he received the news that would change his life forever.
Until that point in his life Andy had been a tennis fanatic, playing competitively during his time at university and going on to become a coach. But in the years following his diagnosis, he gave up the game when he started to notice more physical limitations.
“It changed every aspect of mine and my family’s life from then on. It was a lot to take in at 33 with a young family. My reaction was to stop playing, if I couldn’t progress and improve, I didn’t want to play and see my game deteriorate so I walked away.”
During his time away from the game, Andy took up a voluntary position at Flo Skate Park in Nottingham and it was here, thanks to his close friend Tristan Hessing, he made his first steps back on court. Andy now competes regularly in his Local Tennis League at Vernon Park Tennis Courts – through the LTAprogramme offering friendly, competitive tennis in communities across the UK – and recently finished as the runner-up in a strong field of local players.
In the film Andy recalls what it was like returning to tennis after a long absence and how staying active is benefiting his condition.
“I learned a lot about managing my Parkinson’s over a full singles match; at the start I couldn’t feel my feet and was incredibly stiff but as I loosened up I found that I got into it and was pleased to get 3 games in each set from a strong opponent.”
“I often say to people that I feel most normal when I’m on a tennis court, which is kind of cheesy but I genuinely do. At some point today I’m going to struggle to walk the distance to my car but when I’m on a tennis court I can run, move, serve and jump.”
“I’ve realised sport doesn’t have to be competitive,” he said. “There’s something for everyone that can make you feel good and have fun.”
Having supported the programme for a number of years, the LTA acquired Local Tennis Leagues earlier this year as part of its strategy to open up tennis and grow the game in public park courts. The national governing body hopes to take the programme to more park sites across Britain and create mass participation in grass roots competitive tennis. Since 2005, over 20,000 people have played across an expansive network of Local Tennis Leagues in the UK.
The acquisition of Local Tennis Leagues and the strategic drive to grow participation in tennis across park courts, go hand-in-hand with the Play Your Waycampaign, launched by the LTA earlier this summer to remind people how accessible the sport is.
To find out more about Local Tennis Leagues and sign up to a league near you, visit www.localtennisleagues.com.